Definition of twiddle in English:



  • 1 Twist, move, or fiddle with (something), typically in a purposeless or nervous way.

    ‘she twiddled the dials on the radio’
    [no object] ‘he began twiddling with the curtain cord’
    • ‘I don't want to see any more square-headed blokes twiddling knobs.’
    • ‘She nervously twiddled her fingers together, looking completely uncomfortable.’
    • ‘He mumbled, twiddling his fingers like a young and nervous child.’
    • ‘We are on the balls of our feet, like tennis players awaiting service, anxiously twiddling our sticks.’
    • ‘Melanie dropped her bags and twiddled her fingers nervously.’
    • ‘‘This is what I normally do,’ he says, twiddling his locks to show the effect he's after.’
    • ‘If I'd been wearing a tie, I'd have started twiddling it and doing slow burns to an unseen camera.’
    • ‘She looked down at her podium and nervously twiddled her fingers.’
    • ‘My dad started, twiddling his fingers nervously.’
    • ‘She was nervously twiddling a pen between her fingers.’
    • ‘He moved his hands in front of his face and started twiddling his fingers.’
    • ‘Their natural sense of adventure and competitiveness is channelled into ‘action’ computer games - although all the action involved is sitting on your bum, twiddling your fingers.’
    • ‘I slouch down in my seat, twiddling my fingers nervously.’
    • ‘He twiddled a button on the collar of his navy blue shirt.’
    • ‘Remixing sometimes sounds like twiddling the radio tuner rapidly through different stations.’
    • ‘I made her a hat out of some really fuzzy, soft yarn, and watched as she reached up to rip it off… and then stopped, and just kept twiddling it between thumb and fingers.’
    • ‘He tweaks a knob, he twiddles a dial, he hits a button, and the noise changes on his command.’
    • ‘The short and jittery teacher was always twiddling his hands annoyingly, stuttering when he spoke and nervously rocking back and forth, as he stood.’
    • ‘Pachinko is a vertical pinball game where one feeds little steel balls into the top of the machine, and tries to manipulate their passage down the machine by twiddling a knob, in order to win… more balls.’
    • ‘It was enough to leave reporters twiddling their pens, looking for answers, perhaps from a higher source.’
    turn, twist, swivel, twirl, adjust, move, jiggle
    fiddle with, play with, toy with, fidget with
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1archaic [no object]Turn or move in a twirling way.


  • 1An act of twisting or fiddling with something.

    ‘one twiddle of a button’
    • ‘With darker or lighter, this is easily done at the twiddle of a knob.’
    • ‘The evolutionists just give the knobs of the ‘mechanism’ a twiddle here and there to ‘explain’ the data.’
    1. 1.1A twisted or curled mark or design.
      ‘twiddles and twirls’
      • ‘The table is short of curlicues and twiddles and fancy bits.’
    2. 1.2A rapid or intricate series of musical notes.
      ‘gay little twiddles from the clarinet’
      • ‘In the anteroom, little knots of people emit a cacophony of twangs and twiddles while, in the adjacent baronial hall, by a framed portrait of our hero, Dickie Speake's band is limbering up.’


  • twiddle one's thumbs

    • 1Rotate one's thumbs round each other with the fingers linked together.

      • ‘The twenty-year-old twiddled his thumbs in front of him as he walked around and around.’
      • ‘The Banshee sighs as she twiddles her thumbs around each other.’
      • ‘Brooke stopped twiddling her thumbs, and pressed their tips together.’
      • ‘‘He says some b-b-bad things to me sometimes,’ Jamie said twiddling his thumbs together nervously.’
      • ‘To my surprise, she was actually twiddling her thumbs while looking around herself, a politely bored expression on her face.’
      • ‘The General looked around quite nervously, twiddling his thumbs behind his back.’
      • ‘‘Well, you followed me,’ Trent pointed out with a smile, twiddling his thumbs together as he made himself more comfortable on the ground.’
      • ‘He perched on the edge of the seat twiddling his thumbs while gazing around the room.’
      • ‘She began twiddling her thumbs together and staring at the wall ahead of her.’
      • ‘My father looked to the ground and twiddled his thumbs against each other.’
      1. 1.1Be bored or idle because one has nothing to do.
        ‘I have been sitting here for goodness knows how long twiddling my thumbs’
        • ‘Everyone sat around looking embarrassed and twiddling their thumbs as usual.’
        • ‘If I didn't come here in the night, I'd be sitting around at home, twiddling my thumbs and thinking about going to a real bar.’
        • ‘But scientists, if they are to remain any good at what they do, have to keep on doing it - they can't just wait around twiddling their thumbs for five years and still be able to put together a credible bid.’
        • ‘He's hardly the kind to sit around twiddling his thumbs.’
        • ‘Another friend said: ‘Anyone who knows Mike knows that the one thing he won't do in prison is sit around and twiddle his thumbs.’’
        • ‘But don't think for a second Harris is going to sit around twiddling his thumbs.’
        • ‘All that sitting around twiddling my thumbs, and pretty soon even the dishes seemed like an interesting option.’
        • ‘The worst thing you can do is retire and then just sit around and twiddle your thumbs.’
        • ‘He and I are alike; we yearn for something we cannot find by sitting around, twiddling our thumbs.’
        • ‘Instead of twiddling your thumbs and letting frustration get the best of you, why not hit the road and discover the hidden treasures of the Vigie Peninsula?’
        have nothing to do, kick one's heels, do nothing, be idle, be unoccupied, sit around, kill time, waste time
        hang around, hang round
        hang about
        View synonyms


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘trifle’): apparently imitative, combining the notion twirl or twist with that of trifling action expressed by fiddle.